The best Thank You

As an author, I do lots of appearances — school visits, writing workshops, library talks, lit festivals and bookstore signings. Sometimes, I’ll get a thank you gift from the organisers. I’ve been presented with all manner of interesting and generous gifts — from bottles of wine, to boxes of chocolates; from coffee mugs, to Turkish Delight; from fancy varieties of tea, to certificates written with beautiful calligraphy. These are lovely gestures and are always very much appreciated. But the very best type of thank you gifts are the ones that come from the kids— drawings, cards and thank you notes.

A couple of weeks ago I conducted workshops at the Scotch College Junior Literary Festival organised by Ford Street Publishing. In those workshops, I got the kids to help me plan out stories on the whiteboard as a way of demonstrating story structure. In one class, the kids planned out a story involving a Kung-Fu Master and Ninja throwing stars. At the end of the session, one of boys presented me with a folded paper throwing star. How cool is that?

On 24 August I did a talk and signing at the Eltham Bookshop, after having gone to see Doctor Who: Deep Breath at the cinema (new season; new Doctor; VERY exciting!). I wore my TARDIS jacket to the screening and decided to keep it on for the bookshop gig. As I stood talking, one of the audience members sketched me and presented me with the drawing at the end.

A couple of weeks ago I attended another Ford Street Publishing Literary Festival, this time at the Tucker Road Bentleigh Primary School. It was a fun event at which I conducted three workshops, followed by an hour or so of signing autographs. I had the opportunity to share my Doctor Who obsession with the kids, many of whom were also fans. In fact, one of the kids even drew a picture of the 10th Doctor and his TARDIS, which he presented to me at the end of the day.

It was a surprising thing… but really lovely! At that same festival, another student presented me, completely out of the blue, with a set of drawing pins decorated with various flags of the world. It was a pre-loved set, with a few missing pins… which somehow made it that much more personal and special. :-)

And to top it all off, a week later I got a parcel of thank you cards and letters. It left me speechless. But it gave me such a nice warm glow.

Kids tend to be more honest with feedback than adults. That grown-up filtering system hasn’t kicked in yet. I get all sorts of interesting comments. During question time after one session, I had a boy emphatically tell me that my books would be a whole lot better if I included fart jokes in them. :-)

So when I get compliments and positive feedback from the kids, I know it’s heartfelt and genuine. It’s one of the reasons I love writing for kids. I certainly don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the gifts I’ve gotten from organisers (it really is very nice to be appreciated)… but while a box of chocolates from the organisers is wonderful, a parcel full of hand-made cards, drawings and letters from the kids is pure GOLD!

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Ice Bucket Challenge

You probably all know about the Ice Bucket Challenge. It started off in America as a way to raise money for and awareness of ALS (also known as MND — Motor Neurone Disease). Lots of people, all over the world, have been doing it — including lots of famous people like Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith. The Ice Bucket Challenge has also made it to Australia, with people donating to Motor Neurone Disease Australia or one of its state branches as part of the challenge.

Over the weekend I was nominated to perform the challenge by my good friend Beky Tully-Gibbens. So here’s the video to prove that it happened…

Thanks to my Ice Bucketers: Nykita (my eldest daughter), Jaime, Dylan, Lauren, Nirav, Lachlan and Lexi (my youngest daughter).

It was chilly! And as my mind was rather numbed, I did make a few little mistakes — so I thought I should correct them here. It was not my step grandfather who had MND, but my step grandfather-in-law. And it’s not the Motor Neurones Disease Association of Australia as I keep calling it in the video, but simply Motor Neurone Disease Australia.

Anyway, after watching the vid, please consider making a donation. I already have. :-)

And check out the Ice Bucket Challenge page on the MND Australia website.

Please Note: The water for this challenge was sourced from a rainwater tank. No ice cubes were harmed in the making of this video.

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Libraries & Bookshops

I’ve had lots of speaking and signing gigs lately — school visits, library talks and bookshop events. National Bookshop Day was particularly fun with the morning spent working the register at Dymocks in Collins St, Melbourne, in support of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation; and the afternoon spent meeting readers at Ulysses Bookstore in Sandringham.

I’ve got more events coming up. You can see a full list here, but I wanted to draw attention to a couple of public events coming up over the next couple of weekends.

First up, this Saturday I’ll be speaking at Beaumaris Library…

You choose your own path

I’ll be talking about my teenage obsession with Doctor Who and Choose You Own Adventure books, and how they led me to write my own series of interactive books for kids, You Choose. I’ll also show participants how to write their own interactive stories.

Saturday 16 August, 10.30-11.30 am
Beaumaris Library, 96 Reserve Road, Beaumaris — Melways 86D6
Contact — Jennie Masters 9591 5909
COST: $5 — Bookings essential, only 25 spaces  BOOK HERE
Suitable for ages 8 and up

Then, on the following Sunday I’ll be way on the other end of town at Eltham Bookshop.

You Choose… a Writing and Thinking Workshop

I will talk about the inspiration behind the You Choose books and explain how I planned them. This will be followed by an interactive session where I will show participants how to write their own adventure.

Sunday 24 August, 3.00pm-4.30pm
Eltham Bookshop, 970 Main Road, Eltham
COST: $20.00, which includes one signed copy of a You Choose book, the writing workshop and afternoon tea.
All accompanying adults pay $5.00 each.
Prepaid bookings are essential: 9439 8700 or
Check out the FaceBook event page.

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Time to choose again!

It’s official!

It is with much excitement that I get to make this announcement: there will be another two You Choose books. :-) Not one… TWO! That’ll bring the total series count up to SIX! :-) Now all I’ve gotta do it write them.

Actually, I’ve already started work on book five, tentatively titled Carnival of Creepy Clowns. As with the other books, I’m planning things out on a white board. The pristine surface will soon be covered in cards and arrows. But this is how it begins…

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Studio 3 Web Special Interview

Another Studio 3 interview… this time WITHOUT CREAM PIES!

I little while back I appeared on ABC3’s Studio 3 programme, talking about my You Choose books while being slammed in the face with cream pies. It was a fun interview but there were so many pies I could hardly stop laughing. I think the producer felt a little sorry for me, because after I got cleaned up, she organised a second non-pied interview. That interview is now online…

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Whose Doctor?

Okay… if you’re a regular visitor to my little corner of Cyberspace, you undoubtedly know about my little Doctor Who obsession. I watch it often. I buy all the DVDs. I collect the sonic screwdriver toys. I put Doctor Who references into my books. And, whenever given the opportunity, I write about the show.

Last year, I had an essay included in the academic anthology Doctor Who & Race. It got shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review. :-)

This year, I have a piece of writing in a new eBook about Doctor WhoWhose Doctor? Reflections on a Time Lord. Edited by Adam Ford, this Aussie essay collection includes contributions from:

  • Screenwriter/podcaster/playwright John Richards (Outland, Splendid Chaps, Songs for Europe)
  • Feminist commentator/founder of Cherchez La Femme live talk show Karen Pickering (the Guardian, the Age, Crikey, New Matilda)
  • Comedian/podcaster Ben McKenzie (Dungeon Crawl, Ben McKenzie is Uncool, Splendid Chaps)
  • Author/playwright/poet Emilie Collyer (The Good Girl)
  • Librarian Philip Ashmore
  • Academic LJ Mayher (Deakin University)
  • Writer/performer Jules Wilkinson (Meanjin, Dude, Where’s My Girlfriend)
  • Author Adam Ford (Man Bites Dog)

Each piece is based on work performed live at “Not Quite the Big Finish: An Evening of Doctor Who Spoken Word”, an event organised by Melbourne Library Services last year. Mine is a letter — a letter to Steven Moffat, to be precise.

Whose Doctor? Reflections on a Time Lord is a bargain at just US$5 and is available in multiple formats from Tomely and Smashwords. It even has its own Twitter hashtag — #WhoseDoctor

You can also check out my original performance. It’s not a fabulous quality vid, but it is watchable…

While we’re on the subject of Doctor Who (and when aren’t we?), I’ve gotta tell you about something really cool that happened during a recent school visit. I presented three sessions at the Dromana Secondary College Readers and Writers Festival. A group of Doctor Who fans stuck around for a chat after the final session. One of them happened to be a music student. And there just happened to be a piano in the vicinity. Suddenly, he was playing the 11th Doctor’s theme… the music echoing around the auditorium foyer, like a time traveller bouncing around the space/time continuum. Sadly the TARDIS did not materialise as I was hoping it might. But it was still a REALLY COOL moment!

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Publication Day

It’s PUBLICATION DAY for books three and four of my You Choose series — Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House. These two books, along with the first two in the series, are now available in all good bookstores. Actually… they’re probably available in the bad ones and the indifferent ones as well. ;-)

Let there be cake…

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Cream Pie Interview is Online

Last week an interview with me was screened on the ABC3 television programme Studio 3. The interview involved me getting slammed in the face with five cream pies while I answered questions about my You Choose books. Only four of the cream pies made it into the final version, with the fifth pie being edited out for time. The interview is now online.

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Cream pies on ABC3

What would you expect from a national television interview about your latest series of books? A cream pie slammed into your face? No? How about FIVE cream pies?

Earlier this week I went along to the ABC3 studios to be a guest on Studio 3, their national morning kids’ show. I was to be interviewed by the hosts, Liv and James, about my You Choose series of books. Now, Studio 3 has a bit of a reputation for throwing cream pies at its guests. Tristan Bancks was on the show earlier this year and warned about it (he even posted a pic on Twitter)… his advice was not to get any in my mouth as they’re actually made of shaving cream. Yum, yum!

Even though I knew what I was in for, I couldn’t help feeling a little apprehensive.

In line with the reading experience of the You Choose books, where the reader has to choose which way the story will go, the hosts conducted a You Choose style interview. On the table in front of me were ten cream pies. There were questions under five of them. If I chose a pie with a question, all I’d have to do is answer that question. But under the other five pies were little pie symbols — if I picked one these, I’d get to wear the cream pie. Cool concept!

I did not choose well. After a promising start with a question under my first pie, I proceeded to choose poorly… very poorly indeed!

But I did manage to get my own back. James offered to pick a pie, and he too chose poorly. :-)

Despite having five cream pies splattered all over me, I still managed to get a few questions answered as well. Although, believe me, it was rather difficult speaking coherently while trying to hold back the laughter. It was the most hilarious interview experience I have ever had.

After it was all over and I had been cleaned up, they did a second interview, sans pies, going into a little more depth about the books. I think they felt sorry for me, as I may have broken the record for pie-creamed guest. :-)

If anyone wants to see the action (I wonder if there will be slow-mo?) it is scheduled to screen at about 7:10am on Tuesday 10 June. The second interview may show up later in the show (if there’s time) or it might end up on their website.

Let me conclude with a HUGE thank you to everyone at ABC3. The director, the sound person, the makeup person, the stage manager and the camera crew (sorry folks for not remembering your names) were all wonderful. The hosts, Liv and James, were friendly and thoroughly charming, making me feel very much at ease. And a particular thank you to producer Conor Ayres for taking such good care of me and for providing the wonderful photos in this post.

Seriously people… I had an absolute BLAST! I never realised that television could be this much FUN. If Studio 3 ever wants me back — I’m there!

Hmmm… I wonder if they need an extra host? I could audition for that. That way I’d get to be on the throwing end of the pies.  ;-)


Posted in Appearances, books, Interviews, You Choose series | 5 Comments